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Language

Au Nau Braun Kau

In English, dipthongs are represented by two letter combinations (digraphs). Of course, English being English, digraphs may represent more than one dipthong, and some dipthongs are represented by more than one digraph!
In English, the dipthong “//aʊ//” in IPA is represented by “ou” or “ow”, but is also used in the words “Maori”, “Mcleod”, “sauerkraut” and “umlaut”.
In Diinlang we try to improve on this, with each dipthong only being represented by a single digraph.
In the past, the dipthong represented by “//aʊ//” in IPA has been represented in Diinlang by the digraph “ou”.
Recently it has occurred to me that “//aʊ//” might be better represented by the digraph “au”. This will be more intuitive for users familiar with IPA. It also reduced the number of dipthongs in Diinlang that have digraphs beginning in “o-”.
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Language

Euphony and Syllable Identification

I came across these passages of dialogue in a novel:
“Talekli lamo da ti saso ma, hasi de los padremaso tik de lama… Masa tu so gladji beri rama…”
“… saso ti da mati namo, zara ti raguesta di la ramo…”
“… maso si nami lama”
“Slami makto, shaba tlek na doura rashamateran…”
“Sama slektli, Tara oorsi sa mamda lami se tarakogla me so sani ta deloka de somata so se hakara de sao soma…”
Euphorically, I find this language quite pleasing. There is something of a Mediterranean feel to it, probably due to the numerous open syllables. This is somewhat ironic, since in the novel the languag is supposed to be demonic, or at least trans-dimensional!
There are clear advantages to having a conlang that is both clear and easy to listen to.
Why are these words so pleasing? Euphony is subjective, of course, and one factor will be how the reader will render these letters into sounds. For me, at least, even the longer words were easy to pronounce since my inclination was to treat the words as though composed of Japanese mora: for example “ra-sha-ma-te-ran”. Nearly all these words are treated as being composed of CV or CVn mora. Exceptions to this include “kli”, “tli” “dre” “gla” (CCV), “los”, “tik”, “slek”, “tlek” “es”, “oor” (VC), and “glad”.
This suggests that I have a tendency to treat certain letters as being more likely to terminate a syllable. -k or -d after a vowel are treated as the end of a syllable rather than the start of a following mora. Would the voiced/voiceless equivalents of these letters be treated the same? According to this article on cryptograms, the most common letters to end a word (rather than a syllable) in English are: e, s, t, d. The ending -t suggests to me a perfect or finished aspect. Odd that the word “stop” in English ends in a -p, although one sometimes encounters “stopped” spelt “stopt” in older texts .
Since Diinlang will attempt to utilize compound words, with each syllable being a corresponding “normal” word, there are obvious advantages if there are simple, consistent rules for recognition of where on syllable ends and another starts.
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Language

Why You Should Never LOL

Someone recently repeated to me the old chestnut, “language changes”. I thought about this for a few minutes, and realized this was not actually correct. If anything, “language mutates”. Some of these mutations are useful, others are not, and need to be culled.
I was recently reading Alvin Toffler’s “The Third Wave”. This is one of those books that everyone should read. I would suggest that it be required reading in schools, but it highlights many of the flaws of the Second Wave education system, so very likely not going to happen! I was reading an article on the book, and right in the middle the author makes some comment like “LOL floppy disks”. I did not bother finishing that article. Other than chewing gum with your mouth open while wearing your baseball cap backwards with a tee-shirt saying “Im an Idiot”, I cannot think of a better way to negate any point you were trying to make.
I have, incidentally, worked with someone who would actually laugh out loud at the most trivial of things. It is nowhere as much fun as you might think, and he was a true idiot. On my DVD collection there is a cast interview with an individual who ends every answer he makes with a loud guffaw. It did not make him witty or affable.
Multi-talented comedian Bill Bailey has suggested that any use of LOL be immediately countered with “NELI” (Not Even Laughing Inwardly).
This highlights one of the main flaws in using LOL as a response. Generally it is applied to a comment that was not particularly funny, let along “laugh out loud” funny.
When made as a response to a statement that was not intended to be amusing, it is outright insulting.
Infinitely worse, however, is adding a LOL to your own comment. As the actor referenced above illustrates, laughing at your own jokes does not put one in a good light. It has been considered a social gaffe since long before the internet.
Before I escaped from facebook, I observed there was effectively a rule to using LOL. The rule was:
“If you want to add LOL to the end of a statement, what you said isn’t funny. If it isn’t funny, perhaps you should not say it and look stupid”.
True humour or wit does not need a “rim-shot” or other marker. People will be laughing without being instructed to do so.
Using “LOL” does not make you funny. Instead it comes across as an affected, pretentious, pathetic, self-indulgent plea for affirmation.
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Language

Simple Punctuation for Diinlang 2.1

Punctuation in Diinlang is based on that of English, with a number of simplifications.
When spoken, punctuation of a sentence takes the form of pauses of variable length. When a punctuation symbol would be replaced by a spoken word, a word is used in preference to a symbol in the written form. This is the principle of “Punctuate like you pause”. Thus, one would write “…9 to 5…” or “…teacher or parent…” rather than “…9-5…” or  “…teacher/parent…”.
Full-Stop. When a heading finishes in a line-break it is not necessary to add a full-stop. This improves the aesthetics of the text. Items in a bulleted list do not need a full-stop unless they are a sentence. Items should not end in a comma nor semi-colon. Some style guides require the last item on a bulleted list to end in a full-stop. This is redundant unless the item is a sentence. In Diinlang ending with a full-stop may be seen as redundant when there is a line-break. Capitalization rules for Diinlang have yet to be finalized. For now, assume each item in a bulleted list begins with a capital letter.
Commas, The serial comma or “Oxford comma” is permissible in Diinlang. Its use is recommended when its use clarifies the meaning of a list.
Colon: A colon is used in much the same way as in English. It serves to introduce new information such as a quotation, an explanation, an example, or a series. Whether the information following begins with a capital letter will depend on whether it is a new sentence, a bulleted list, or not. It may be used for emphasis or to join independent clauses. A colon should not be followed by a hyphen or dash. When writing dialogue, an introductory clause does not need a colon, comma or full-stop if it is immediately followed by a quotation mark on the same line. eg She said “It is time…” An identifier that follows a quotation mark does not need to be capitalized. It is treated as the end of a sentence, however.
Question Mark? A sentence is made a question by adding a question mark to the end. In Diinlang this represents the word “ke” and is pronounced if the sentence is read-out-loud. Ke is placed at the start of a sentence to form the Diinlang of “Wh-” questions. In these sentences a “?” may be written at the start of the sentence rather than “ke”.
Exclamation Point! Used as in English. It should be used sparingly unless within dialogue.
Slash/ The slash symbol is used for a number of applications. The slash often represents an alternative. When used for sentence construction, in many instances it can be replaced by words such as “or”. If a slash is used, there should be no space between the slash and the following character, unless this would affect clarity. A slash with a space after is used to quote the lines of a poem when line breaks are not used. eg. She wrote “Challenge in the spring/ Autumn rain bathing in light/ Children laugh lightly/ ”
Semicolon; A semicolon joins independent clauses. The STE guide notes that the semi-colon is difficult to use correctly and suggests it is never used. It is preferable to use a comma, colon, or construct two sentences instead. The main use for the semicolon in Diinlang is to separate the items of a complex list. A complex list is one where one or more items contains a comma.
Hyphens and Dashes– Diinlang uses the keys found on a generic keyboard for punctuation. The hyphen (or more properly, “hyphen-minus symbol”) is used instead of an en-dash. The hyphen joins two or more words or numbers together so they are treated as a single unit. It may form compound modifiers or compound a modifier with a noun. When it joins two numbers, it indicates the numbers represent a unitary concept such as a period of time. Thus, “1914-1918 War”. Where two numbers are joined together to represent a range, then a word should be used rather than a hyphen. See 9-5 example earier. In some English uses the hyphen may be replaced by a colon. eg “My team won 3:1!” rather than “..won 3-1”
A double-hyphen is used instead of an em-dash. It is used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon. Using these latter symbols is preferable in Diinlang –the use of a double-hyphen or em-dash should be sparing. A double-hyphen or em-dash might be used when a clause already contained a comma, so could not be isolated with a comma. In this application the double-hyphen is treated like brackets. They are preceeded and followed by a space, but there is no space between them and the phrase or clause within.
A double-hyphen may be used instead of a bullet when making a bulleted list.
A double-hyphen is used instead of a double-em-dash when representing missing letters in a word–“J– told G– that it was ‘All S–!’”
A triple-hyphen replaces the three-em-dash to represent a missing word or the repeated name of an author in a bibliography or reference list.
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Language

More Ideas for Diinlang 2.1

Proper Determiners

Capitalization is a problem for many in English. Hopefully a simpler set of conventions can be formulated for Diinlang.
A related idea that I had was s specific article or articles for proper nouns and phrases. In English one might write “Meet me at the hole.” or “Meet me at The Hole”. It is clear that in the second case the reference is to an establishment or place called “The Hole”. If spoken, there is no obvious distinction.
Possibly Diinlang could have distinct definite and indefinite articles for use with proper nouns.

Demonstrative Adjectives

I have been reluctant to introduce demonstrative adjective/pronouns for Diinlang. Instead I investigated the idea that the words for “here” and “there” (“vang” and “ving”), could be used instead. Where greater specificity was needed these were combined with the definite article (“ve”): ve vang (this), ve ving (that), vez vang (these) and vez ving (those).
Afrikaans seems for the most part to manage with just a single demonstrative: “dit”. This means “this” or “that” but also serves as a third person neuter pronoun with the meaning “it”. The definite article “die” may be used as a pronoun meaning “this one”, “these”; “that one”, “those”; “he”, “she”, “it”, “they”
Possibly “vit” could be used, with the shorthand “vt”. This would be pluralized as vitz/vtz when necessary. It could be combined with vang or ving when more specificity is needed.

Simple Grammar Rules for Diinlang Verbs

Verbs use the same word for the bare infinitive form and all tenses.
Use the Simple Present Tense for Habitual Actions: A marker for habitual actions may be used, however.
Use the Present Progressive Tense for Current Action: Formed by combining the bare infinitive with the auxilary “bi”: eg. “Em bi go” = “I am going.”
Simple past is made with the marker te and bare infinitive:Em te bi go” = “I went.”
Use Present Perfect for the Unfinished Past: Perfect uses the auxilary verb “he” : “Em he go” = “I have gone.”
Use Present Perfect Progressive for Unfinished Action and Past: “Em he bi go” =  “I have been going.”
Past Perfect for the First of Two Past Actions:Em te he nyam un e em te go on.” =  “I had chewed one and I went on.”
Passive Voice: Passive voice is rendered using the auxiliary verb “ge” with the bare infinitive. Passive statements in English often use the word “by”. In Diinlang equivalent words include po (from), de (nonspecific preposition) and kom (with).
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Language

Penunimate

Penunimate : The time before the final one percent of an operation completes. May be several hours in duration.
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Language

The Phonemes “Ch” and “W”

Two potential phonemes for Diinlang have needed special consideration.

CH

The first is the phoneme /t͡ʃ/, which in English is the most common phoneme that the digraph “ch” is used for. “C” on its own is not used as a phoneme in Diinlang, since “k” or “s” serve instead. Some conlangs use “c” to represent /t͡ʃ/, but this may be confusing. Some natural languages, such as Portuguese, represent /t͡ʃ/ with “x” or other letters.
Since “ch” represents /t͡ʃ/, and /ʃ/ is often represented by “sh”, some phonetic systems use “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/. This raises the side issue of acceptable consonant clusters for Diinlang.
For Diinlang, the question is whether to use “ch” or “tsh” for /t͡ʃ/? If we do use “ch” then “c” becomes rather like the letter “q” in English, in that it only ever occurs as a digraph.
“Ch” in some English words sounds like it should be more accurately represented by a “jh” rather than a “tsh”. Should “church” be spelt “jhurtsh”, “jhurch”, or “tshurtsh”?

W

The other phoneme that needs special consideration for Diinlang is that represented by the letter “w” in English, and the symbol /w/ in IPA. In English, this letter has a distinct sound when used at the start of a word or syllable or as the digraph “wh”. When used otherwise “w” often substitutes for other phonemes, such as “oh” in “slow”, “ou” in “cow” and “or” in “saw”. The digraph “kw” is probably the best representation of the sound of “q/qu” in English. For this latter use, if nothing else, Diinlang probably needs to include “w”.
Some linguistic groups have trouble pronouncing the phoneme /w/, often substituting a “v”-sound.
When encountering “w” at the start of a word or syllable in English or Diinlang, a useful tip is to attempt to pronounce it as a “u” rather than as a “v”.
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Language

Owen's Global Alphabet

Visiting the Omniglot website I came across Owen’s “Global Alphabet”. Owen was a US senator and an advocate of phonetic English. He created his own phonetic alphabet, which it is claimed that any known language can be represented.
Owen's Global Alphabet
Owen’s alphabet supposedly has 18 symbols for vowels, 18 for consonants and six for “compound consonants”.
The compound consonants are given here as ch, th, sh, wh, ng and zh. The chart above also has the “kw” sound of the English “qu” and the “dh” sound that “th” sometimes represents in English.
The first thing that strikes me about Owen’s alphabet is that some of the vowel symbols are quite intricate. Personally, I would be inclined to make the vowels and most used consonants as simple as practical. More similarity between related vowels could have been tried.
Glancing down the chart, several phonemes appear absent. Owen’s phonetic alphabet comes with several rules that must be learnt. The initial “y-” sound of English is represent for the symbol for /ai/ (“i” as in “file”) when it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel. The initial “w-” sound is represented by a “u” symbol where it occurs at the start of a word in front of a vowel.
It also took me some time to realize that “a” as in “ate” represented the sound /ei/ or ay/ey. Interestingly, on the Omniglot page “whale” is spelt with the symbols for “oo-ay-l/ uu-ey-l”.
Owen has distinct symbols for “ar”, “er” and “or” but not for other combinations of vowel with “r”. These symbols might be easier to learn if they looked like the parent vowel joined to the “r” symbol.
The absence of a symbol for “y” necessitates the creation of a symbol for the sound “yu” as in “few”.
Owen’s system distinguishes between near-close back rounded “u” /ʊ/as in “put”, “foot” and “wolf” and that of the open-mid back unrounded (/ʌ/) in “but”, “enough”, “other” or “up”. It also considers “a” as in “all” distinct from “or” as in “for”.
Owen’s Global Alphabet was an interesting attempt in the field. It provides some insight as to what phonemes a conlang will need. Replacing “-ew”  with “yu” and omitting the “-r” vowels gives 15 vowels. There are eight consonant digraphs. With the addition of “w” and “y” there are 18 other consonants.

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Language

A Question of Y

The letter “y” poses an interesting problem for Diinlang.
Many constructed languages choose to use “y” for a “j” sound, like that in “hallelujah”. The letter “j” is used to represent another sound, often “/ʒ/”. That seems rather illogical to me.
In English, “y” it represents a variety of sounds. When placed at the start of a word it has the distinctive sound we hear in words like “yes”, “you”, “yacht” and “yoghurt”. Just to confuse things, IPA uses the symbol /j/ for this sound. Initial “y” only seems to take this sound when it proceeds a vowel. In the small number of English words where an initial “y” precedes a consonant it takes an /i/ sound.
When used within a word or at its end, “y” may take either a /i/ or an /ai/ sound.
“/Ai/” represents the sound of the English words “eye” or “aye”, the name of the letter “I” or the end sound of the words “my” and “by”. None of the phonetic systems I am familiar with have come up with a letter combination that satisfactorily represents this sound. For example, a reader might understandably assume that “mai” represents the sound “may” rather than “my”.
In Diinlang I tried using “iy” for /ai/, but admit this is not totally satisfactory. Like other attempts, the letter combination does not entirely suggest the sound, so the combination needs to be learnt. Additionally, using “iy” lengthens certain words that would be briefer in conventional English spelling.
While it is an attractive idea to have Diinlang use totally phonetic spelling, it has become clear that this may come with penalties such as decreased brevity. It may be necessary for Diinlang to have certain pronunciation rules that must be learnt. Such rules should be:
○ As few as possible
○ As simple as possible
○ Applied consistently.
In Diinlang we already use the letter combination “oy” to represent the sound /ɔɪ/ in the English words “boy” or “toy”. The combination “ay” is used for /ei/ as in the English words “may” and “obey”. “yu” makes the sound “you” as in “music”.
The letter combination “iy” will continue to represent the sound /ai/. To this we will add the rule that the character “y” has the sound /ai/ where it follows a consonant in a word. When “y” is the initial letter of a word it takes the sound /j/.

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Simplified Technical English and Conlangs

Regular readers will know that I have an interest in readability. Recently I was reading about Simplified Technical English (STE).
STE essentially has two parts:
• One part is a vocabulary/ dictionary of approved words. More on this in a moment.
• The other part is sometimes described as a grammar or set of rules. It may be more productive and accurate to think of it as a style-guide.
The STE suggestions are worth keeping in mind when you are writing. This should particularly be the case when writing instructions or safety warnings.
Using the approved word list is a little more difficult than applying the rules. There are programs that will check text for you, but these appear to be relatively expensive. Unlike for some other controlled languages, so far I have not been able to locate any free or on-line resources that can check that your text is in STE.

STE and Conlangs

What relevance does STE have to conlangs? One of the big challenges to creating a conlang is constructing a vocabulary. Directly translating words from English often proves far less simple than one might first assume. Many English words have multiple meanings, some of them contradictory. The STE vocabulary assigns a single meaning to an approved word. In most cases an approved word can only be used as one part of speech. The approved STE word list and its definitions therefore may be a very useful starting point for creating the Diinlang vocabulary.
The writing rules illuminate other possible issues with Diinlang. Shorter sentences highlight the need for transition phrases that clearly link different sentences and paragraphs. A system to clearly show if a sentence is addressing the subject, object or indirect object of a preceding sentence would be useful.